If Fretting About ‘Our’ Carbon Footprints is a Waste of Time…

What should we fret about instead?

Another InkPrepNoWriCember update, this time about environmental stuff!

Here, I’m making a drawing for a collaborative art project I’m doing with an environmental group. The drawing is about ways to be strategic about environmental action, and new metrics we can use.

Specifically, alternatives to the idea of our individual carbon footprints.

A lot of people try to strategize their environmental action by minimizing their carbon footprint. And this isn’t bad or anything. They’re basically trying to affect the economy, through their market participation. And the hope is that enough people do this, that the market for environmentally unfriendly products dries up to the extent that companies feel incentivized to make these changes.

The problem is the carbon footprint as a metric leaves out a lot of avenues for action by focusing entirely on your buying decisions. And that is one way to influence our collective carbon footprint (which is what actually matters).

But it’s not the only way. And arguably, it’s not even the best way.

The other problem with optimizing your personal individual carbon footprint is that beyond a point, any action you take is just a form of perfectionism without making much of a difference to our collective carbon footprint.

As you probably know, the changes we make as individuals have a much smaller impact than changes made by governments and corporations. So our individual choices in consumption only matter to the extent that they affect governments and corporations.

Our perfectionism about our carbon footprints is awfully convenient for big corporations.

Researchers Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes write: ‘The very notion of a personal “carbon footprint,” for example, was first popularized in 2004–2006 by oil firm BP as part of its $100+ million per year “beyond petroleum” US media campaign.’

So the overemphasis of personal carbon footprints has basically been a way of deflecting focus from the parties really responsible.

And the changes that we need need to come from governments and corporations, among other entities.

And we might be thinking, Well, I’m not a government or a corporation. So what can I do?

And what I’m trying to express here is that there’s actually a world of possibilities of things we can do. We have influence over governments, corporations, culture, or social groups. And we knew that we had influence on them through our buying actions. But there’s also other ways.

For example, companies care about their brands, and so they care about your opinion of them. So expressing that opinion affects them, and incentivizes them to change. And likewise, voting, speaking to representatives, speaking to other voters, all of these types of advocacy, have an influence on governments and society and culture at large.

So I think a small tweak in how we measure ourselves and what we optimize for when taking environmental action can make a huge difference.

And whatever progress the environmental movement has made, it has been made by groups of individuals working together. If we’re more strategic about it, just imagine how much more effective we could be and how much more progress we could make.

So that’s what I’m trying to convey with this drawing.

The version I made in the video ended up a bit overworked, so I went back and took out some of the lighting effects I went overboard on.

Novel update: I finally finished reading my draft. I read it more or less backwards – I started with the last few chapters than the middle at the beginning.

As I got closer to the beginning, the writing got better and better, which was encouraging, because I’d spent a lot of time revising the first portion of the novel. It was so much better than the rest, so now I’m excited to repeat the same process on the remaining chapters.

So that’s what I’ll be doing next. I’ll be reacquainting myself with the editing process I used on the first chapters, and making a plan to apply it again.

InkPrepNoWriCember is going well so far!

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